Fashion Talks at AUP: Misfit Masculinities with Ben Barry

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Ben Barry

On Wednesday, April 27, 2022, the Fashion Talks at AUP lecture series, which in this academic year takes the subtitle “Between Consumption, Criticism and Activism,” hosted an online talk by guest speaker Ben Barry, Dean of Fashion at Parsons School of Design and Principal Investigator of the Cripping Masculinity project. His lecture was titled “Misfit Masculinities: Self-Fashioning in a Sanist and Ableist World.” The Fashion Talks lecture series is organized by Professor Renate Stauss and Professor Sophie Kurkdjian (Fashion StudiesDepartment of Communication, Media and Culture). 

Ben Barry’s talk opened with the words of Mona Stonefish, Anishinaabe (Bear Clan) Elder: “In Indigenous societies, we do not see people for what they lack, we see people for what they have.” This quote set the tone for a highly political and humane contribution from Barry, whose talk explored the “dilemma of disabled masculinity”: how Disabled, Deaf and Mad men and masculine nonbinary people engage with clothing to navigate the social world and make their own worlds.

Barry presented the narratives of six participants in Cripping Masculinity, a five-year research project on how disabled masculine experiences of consuming and constructing clothing stretch dominant understandings of body-minds, gender and fashion. With a focus on wardrobe interviews, Ben drew on sartorial biographies and fashion-hacking workshops, recounting an analysis that introduced the concept of “misfit masculinities” to demonstrate how disabled masculine people’s encounters with clothing provide layered and liberatory understandings of fashioning masculinity. These understandings are an antidote to hegemonic masculinity, white supremacy and compulsory able-bodiedness and able-mindedness.

The talk aimed to shift away from the dominant framework in fashion studies in which marginalized bodies are primarily storied as damaged and oppressed. Barry wanted to center the wisdom, creativity and joy that comes from Disabled, Deaf and Mad people’s relationships and experiences with clothing because of – and without denying – systemic oppressions. His inspiring contribution presented the simultaneous processes of surviving and thriving.

About Ben Barry

Ben Barry (he/him) is Dean of Fashion at Parsons School of Design and Principal Investigator of the Cripping Masculinity project. Ben’s teaching and research centers on the intersectional fashion experiences of disabled, fat, trans and queer people and engages them in the design of clothing, media and fashion systems. He has published in journals including Fashion Theory, Gender & Society and Fat Studies, and he is the co-editor of both Crossing Gender Boundaries: Fashion to Construct, Disrupt and Transcend (Intellect, 2020) and the forthcoming Fashion Education: The Systemic Revolution (Intellect, 2022). He has a PhD from Cambridge University.